Sexual Assault Is Not Some Rite Of Passage

by Kristen McGuiness
Originally Published: 

Here’s the thing: I’ve hooked up with a lot of men. Starting in high school, when I discovered alcohol, I frequently found myself in dark bedrooms with boys I had just met. Later, as I became a woman, they became men. We were both frequently inebriated. And as my own addictions got worse, so did the states of inebriation.

I could probably give you a rough figure of my promiscuity for statistics’ sake (at the mortal embarrassment of my husband and family), but let’s just say it was a lot. Some of them I liked; some of them were just there. Some of them were nice; some of them clearly could have cared less about me.

But out of all those dudes on all those drunken, drugged-out nights, only two of them assaulted or attempted to assault me. Do you know why?

Because assaulting someone isn’t normal.

Most men don’t grow up thinking it’s okay to hold a girl down at a party and cover her mouth when she tries to scream. Most men don’t think it’s okay to expose themselves and try to make a woman touch their penis. Most men don’t do those things because they aren’t sexual predators. It’s a mental health disorder, and it’s criminal.

In my formative years in Texas in the 1990s, “boys being boys” meant they might attempt to get to second base, third base, or even a home run, but whenever I told them that I didn’t want to do something (no matter how much we had drunk or smoked or even snorted), they responded with, “That’s cool.” Sometimes they had to go to the bathroom to take care of themselves, or they just left. Sometimes they were brats about it. But most times, they would take “no” for an answer, and we just went back to what we were doing, whatever pleasant-enough activity we had mutually agreed to — often snuggling and passing out or going through a CD collection and sharing our favorite music, which in the ’90s always seemed to be the backup activity to sex.

They knew the difference between right and wrong. And no matter how many keg stands they had done, they knew that if a girl or woman asked to leave, told them to stop, or didn’t want to take off her shirt, pants, or underwear, they were supposed to respect that. No matter how much she had drunk. No matter what she might have done with their best friend the weekend before. Because no matter how much they might have wanted to get laid, they didn’t want to hurt someone else to do it.

Eighty-one percent of women (and 43 percent of men) say they have been sexually assaulted, but we lack statistics on the percentage of men (or women) who say they have been perpetrators in said assaults. Yet it’s not surprising when one man gets accused by multiple women. That’s because 81 percent of women aren’t being assaulted by 81 percent of men. The percentage of sexual predators is far, far smaller. And that’s not a conspiracy—it’s statistics.

The first time a boy assaulted me was at a high school party. He was a popular football player at a private school, and I was the slightly artsy girl who listened to too much Tori Amos. “David” invited me outside to his car to have a cigarette. We started kissing behind his Jeep Wrangler (because of course), and then, with a force that took me by surprise, he pushed me onto the ground. Before I could say anything, he was on top of me as I lay in the street. He put his forearm over my chest as he tried to get his penis out of his pants.

He was drunker than I was, so I punched him hard in the face and got up, yelling at him. He quickly jumped up, his penis out. He was apologetic and acted like he was putting his dick away. He offered to walk me back to the party, and though he had just tried to attack me in the middle of the street, I didn’t want him not to like me, so I agreed.

Though I walked away physically unharmed that night, I saw what sexual predators looked like. They look nice. They look handsome. They look entitled.

We started to walk back, but then he grabbed my arm and tried again to get me to touch his penis. At that point, I couldn’t get away. I was telling him to let go of me, and he kept saying, “Just hold it. Just hold it.”

Another guy, “Jacob” (an even more popular football player — and a current Donald Trump supporter, I might add), walked up and stopped him, asking, “Hey man, what are you doing to her?”

David let go of me, as Jacob called to me, “Kristen, are you okay?” I hadn’t even realized he knew my name. I was shaken, but okay seemed fair enough. Jacob saw two girls and asked them to help me while he cornered his friend and began lecturing him, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

I didn’t stick around to hear more.

I can only hope if “David” were in the running for the Supreme Court today (a lifetime appointment), I would have the strength to tell my story. Because though I walked away physically unharmed that night, I saw what sexual predators looked like.

They look nice. They look handsome. They look entitled.

Some of them belong in therapy, and some belong in prison. But they don’t belong in lifetime appointments to positions of power. And they are not the majority; they are in a very sick minority.

Sexual assault is not a rite of passage because the fact is that most men don’t participate in it. Only sexual predators do.

Most of the men I have met in my life have been the type who walked up and said, “Hey man, what are you doing to her?” It wasn’t because they were heroes, though the Trump-supporting football player that night in Texas definitely comes off as one. They were just decent people. Most people — even the ones who voted for Trump or think they have to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — are decent people.

They don’t actually want to assault women. They see a woman as a friend, an equal, someone worthy of their respect and her own dignity. No matter what they believe politically, when decent men — the majority of men — are nominated for a major public office, no one comes forward to say, “That man tried to make me hold his penis in college.”

Sexual assault is not a rite of passage because the fact is that most men don’t participate in it. Only sexual predators do.

We do those people no favors when we offer them positions of power; they don’t belong in charge. They need to be taken to the corner of a yard, looked squarely in the face, and asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Sexual assault isn’t every guy’s story. And it needs to stop being every woman’s.

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